Dalton, Charles Osborne

Lieutenant Colonel Charles O. Dalton, DSO, KStJ, ED
Lieutenant Colonel Charles O. Dalton, DSO, KStJ, ED

Colonel Charles Osborne Dalton, DSO, KStJ, ED, a D-Day Company Commander of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, passed away in Toronto on 21 February 1999 at the age of 88.

Born in Toronto, Colonel Dalton enlisted in the Queen’s Own Rifles Cadet Company in 1925 at the age of 15. A year later he joined the 2nd Battalion. He was sent to England in March 1940 as an instructor in the Canadian Infantry Training Unit until rejoining his Regiment in 1943 in the rank of Major to assume command of “B” Company.

Colonel Dalton led “B” Company on D-Day landing on the beaches of Bernieres-sur-Mer in front of a concrete strong point where his company underwent fierce machine gunfire. Almost half of B Company was lost in the initial dash across the beach. He suffered a severe head wound but continued to lead his men knocking out one of the pill boxes himself. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his leadership and bravery. [His brother Colonel H.E. Dalton also commanded a Company on D-Day.]

He was evacuated to a hospital in England and after recovery he returned to the Regiment serving through the Channel Ports campaign. He was made second-in-command of the unit during the Battle of the Rhineland and served as such until end of the war.

On return to Canada, he joined Carling Breweries becoming President of the Company in 1951. He later became Executive Vice President of Canadian Breweries.

He served as Honorary Lieutenant Colonel from 14 December 1968 to 7 May 1970 when he became Honorary Colonel until 10 December 1975 (to be succeeded by his brother H.E. Dalton.)

Not only was Colonel Dalton a courageous soldier and an inspiring leader, he was also an astute businessman, a devout Christian, a loving husband and father, and a dedicated volunteer in several charities.

Colonel Dalton was survived by his wife Helen, two sons Christopher and Ian, and two daughters June and Faith and eleven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Transcript of Interview conducted in 1998 as part of a school project

Charles Dalton joined the Cadet Corps of the Queen’s Own when he was 15.  He was a 34-year-old Major when he commanded B Company.  A and B Companies made up the first wave which landed at 0812 hours.  B Company was on the left, and A Company, commanded by his brother Elliot Dalton, was on the right.  Major Dalton was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) for his leadership in the war and later served as Honorary Colonel of the QOR. 

What happened when the ramp dropped when you landed?  What were your feelings at this time?

When I said “Follow me!” and dashed down the ramp into 12 feet of water, I disappeared.  I had an 85-pound pack on my back with ammunition and food and so on plus I had a life preserver on, so we all sank just like stones.  So when people say we ran up the beach, I say “Run?  I was barely crawling up the beach!”  And we were full of water because the impregnated battle dress we were wearing at the time kept the water from running out.

The man next to me was hit seven times down his arm.  I didn’t get touched.  We scrambled up the beach and when I looked back, I was horrified to see that there was nobody following me.  Now, one of the difficult things about leading is that you never can look back, because if you look back, the people behind you then get the feeling that you’re stopping and that the smart thing to do is get down out of the line of fire.  When I looked back I thought they had gone to ground, but in fact they were lying at the water’s edge and Germans were firing at them as they lay wounded.

So in 10 minutes, of the 120 men I had with me, we were all either killed or wounded.

When you first got onto the beach, what were your feelings and what did you do?

Of course you’re always frightened, no question about that, but all I could think of was that our Medical Officer had said “Now look, 50% of you are going to be casualties.  If you’re hit, one of two things will happen.  If you’re dead, your problems will be over.  If you’re wounded, you’re going to get better.  So just lie there and keep quiet and wait for the medical people to catch up with us, but nobody else will stop to help you, because if they do the whole thing will stop.”

So I kept thinking, what I’m really worrying about is whether I’m going to survive, but it looks as if you don’t have much choice in this whole thing.  So the important thing is that I can give the leadership that they’re expecting from me because I have their lives in my hands.  If I make the wrong decision, we’ll all wind up being killed or wounded, and if I don’t make any decision, we’ll have the worst chaos of all.  So I’d better just get on with the idea of doing the best job I can and forgetting about whether I’m going to be sacrificed as we land on the beach.

What did you do when you got close to the enemy?  Did you feel a sense of relief or accomplishment when you got near?

The pillbox I was assigned to attack was supposed to have been taken out by the Engineers and the Tank Corps, but that didn’t happen because it was too rough and the tanks tended to sink right off the landing craft.  So it wasn’t until later, after I had been hit, that I recognized that I wasn’t going to be able to get in this pillbox because it had a steel door and a 36 grenade wasn’t about to blow the door in.  So I finally decided that if I used my Sten gun at the two machine guns that were firing, but they had a shield over their guns so that nobody could fire in.  So I had a ladder that we put up the wall, and then I fired at the shield with the hope that the bullets would ricochet off them and fly around inside their pillbox.  And actually they did, so the machine guns stopped firing, but we were still no closer to getting in.

Meanwhile, one of the German officers got his 9mm revolver out and fired at me and it drilled through my helmet and down the ladder I slid.  One of the stretcher bearers was there and said to me, “Sir I thought you were smarter than that, to stick your head over the top of that wall”.  I said, “I wasn’t trying to be smart, I was just trying to find some way to stop these people from firing, and at least I’ve accomplished that much.”  So when the tanks came up, they did just that.

What did you do you after the battle?

It was about 8:30 in the morning, I guess, and I was walking along the beach trying to catch up with the rest of the company.  A medical officer saw the bandage on my head and he took the dressing off and put another bigger one on.  He said, “You will be back in England by tonight,” but I wasn’t back in England that night, I was lying on stretcher on the beach until 3 o’clock in the morning.  People came along and put cigarettes in my mouth and gave me some rum, but after a while you realized you were terribly uncomfortable with all that sand inside your clothes.

So on the third day we were put on a tank transporter which was large landing craft, and we were stacked up three high in stretcher. By that time, cigarettes were getting pretty scarce, but here’s the kind of comradeship we had.  I would light a cigarette and take two puffs and then pass it to the man above me who took two puffs.  And if nobody cheated it would go all the way up to the top rack and back down and I would get the last puff.  Well, most people would say “Here I am, and I don’t even know if I’m going to be alive by morning, so I’m going to take a really good drag on it,” but nobody did.  And that’s what people missed when they got home, and that’s why a lot of them signed up to go to Korea.

16 thoughts on “Dalton, Charles Osborne”

  1. Very interesting reading !
    One thing which surprised Chris or Ian did not say was the oldest daughter of uncle Charlie was Mary not June. She is the oldest of the 13 1st cousins , only one born before the war started. She still lines in Oakville, as I do.
    Yes, my father Col. Elliot Dalton had passed away at 78 years old before the interviews, talked about. The CBC did dozens of interviews with him, especially on D-Day dates.
    Dad’s company did not have as many fallen soldiers on D-Day as uncle Charlie.
    Of the 5 landing crafts that each had, dad’s Wes the only boat to actually hit the beach, even though the driver had been shot between the eyes and it missed all the obstacles by itself.
    His A Company was the only British, United States, or Canada 🇨🇦 Company to make their objective at the end of day one.
    Dad was blowed up by a 3” mortar 5 days later.
    My grandmother was told that both her sons had been killed on D-Day, and she had a stroke. Both Charlie and dad were told each other had been killed on that day.
    When dad made it back to England, they wheeled him into a bedroom in the hospital and stopped. There seems to be someone in your bed, Major Dalton. Dad said get him the heck out. They rolled the fellow over and it was his brother Charlie. The first moment either knew the other one was alive. They caused so much ruckus that after a week they were transferred to different hospitals.
    I am Eli’s older son, Mark


  2. Osborne- Dalton- Philpot. These are all names I am familiar with while doing Genealogy in England and Ireland from a long time ago. John Philpot wrote the genealogy of the Osborne Family. The daughter of Roger Dalton, by the name of Mary Dalton married Sir Richard Osborne, 1st baronet of Waterford, Tipperary, Ireland. born 1593


  3. My brother Chris Dalton passed away June 15th 2016 from complications due to Diverticulitis. He was 70.
    My name is Ian Dalton the younger son of Charles. I would be happy to answer any questions the best I can.


    1. I am very sorry about your loss. Is it true that your father and your uncle were to lead the assault on Bernieres after a coin toss?


      1. I’m so sorry that I didn’t find your email till now. I don’t remember hearing about a coin toss. That seems a bit frivolous but it is possible I suppose. Dad commanded B company that was assigned a landing zone. Uncle El was A company. His landing area was missed as the lead boat was incapacitated.

        On Aug 10, 2017 4:27 AM, “The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum and Archives” wrote:

        Florin Petre commented: “I am very sorry about your loss. Is it true that your father and your uncle were to lead the assault on Bernieres after a coin toss?”


      2. I am Mark Elliot Dalton, oldest son of Col. Elliot Dalton
        The coin toss did happen but was just to see which Dalton would lead which company, A or B.
        I only found out from Chris about 5 years ago that my Uncle Charlie went to Colonel Spragge and asked that his younger (5 years) brother, Elliot , not be allowed to be in the 1st wave. Jock Spragge said he had thought about that but could not do the landing without both Dalton’s up front. He said it was in gods hands now. I don’t believe my father even knew about this ?


    2. Hi Ian
      Was looking up books on D-Day and thought I would search for your Dad. I remember the stories you used to tell us in the dorm in Lower School. Stories your Dad told you.
      So sorry your brother has passed away. I know he played in a pretty cool band …the name is just on the tip of my tongue…but escapes me !! (Whiskey Sour maybe??)
      I think you were pretty proud of him too.
      You took Mandeville, Galpin and I out for Sunday diner with your Mom and Dad. First celebrity I ever met … and the most deserving I think.
      Have a feeling this may never find you but I consider our acquaintance
      one of the bright spots of my years at school.
      All the best


    3. What a family legacy! Two great company commanders who landed side-by-side on D-Day. I’ve watched at least two war documentaries that feature your dad being interviewed. He sure retained his memory and gave us a clear picture of what happened during the “run in.” Am I correct in assuming your uncle Elliott had passed away before these interviews were produced?


    1. I’m reading about Juno Beach and I can understand you are proud of your father. He was a hero, like all the soldiers who fought for our freedom!


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